Verella’s Round-Up: JHO Follow-up; Status of Evictions

verella osborne

Verella Osborne, President, Legal Document Management, Inc.


Well, the Just Housing Ordinance has been in effect for four months – so how has it affected your application process? Have you decided not to consider an applicant’s criminal history at all? If you have, please note that there is a difference of opinion among attorneys: some believe the JHO only applies if a landlord considers criminal history in renting; other attorneys believe the JHO is not limited in this respect and applies across the board to all residential and commercial rentals and sales. If you don’t want to be the “test case,” I suggest you comply even if you don’t consider criminal records.

Are you providing the mandated three documents to each applicant? These documents are a “prequalification” application form, your written rental criteria, and a copy of the JHO Disclosure notice or link. Do you have an “acknowledgement of receipt” for the last two disclosures included in your application form and signed by the tenant? Or is it just your word against theirs that you provided them? Remember that, if you have no proof, you could be liable for non-compliance.

If you’ve stopped considering criminal history as a qualification, have you checked the “criminal activity” and “disturbance of peace” language in your lease to ensure they’re truly enforceable provisions? Has renting in compliance with the JHO caused you any difficulty in retaining good tenants? Have old tenants complained about the actions of new residents or about the questionable traffic brought into the building? Or is four months too soon to answer these questions? Remember that the intent of the JHO was a one-year tenure to test its impact and consequences. If you have suffered negative consequences because of your compliance with the JHO, the Cook County Board needs to be apprised of them; I’d also appreciate hearing from you directly.

Eviction Status: The Circuit Court of Cook County closed March 13 and just started accepting new eviction filings and assigning dates for approximately July 1st, so your attorney should be receiving notices assigning new hearing dates for those cases. Although there was a rumor last week that the Sheriff has started to serve summonses again, no notice is on their website and I haven’t been able to reach them to confirm. Almost all landlords, of course, are trying to make installment payment arrangements with tenants to avoid evictions; however, there was a backlog of tenants with unpaid rent long before the shelter-at-home directive who have taken advantage of the courts’ closure and have no intention of making payments. With the two-month trial dates we’re receiving, and the abysmal service record of the Sheriff, be prepared for evictions to take 2-3 times longer than usual.

Final Note: Two landlord contacts have recently reported having evicted tenants move back into their apartments after being evicted by the Sheriff; the landlords called the police, who refused to charge the tenants with criminal trespass and insisted the landlord allow the tenants back in the units. If you’ve had a similar experience, please call the Chief of Police to file a complaint:

Take care of yourself and your families – this can’t last forever!